In early 2014, The Happy Africa Foundation (THAF) launched a new focal project called the GAPA Enrichment Programme. This program seeks to empower this group of children, and the grannies who watch over them, to attend two educational trips during the year. These educational trips enable children to attend culturally enriching institutions and engage with hands-on learning through fun and exploration. Learning is both age and development appropriate and encourages well-rounded learning outside of the classroom. In the long term, educational trips improves children’s critical thinking, increases exposure to cultural institutions in the community, facilitates group learning and will ultimately empower children to grow mentally from the new experience.
At the beginning of July, the children and grannies at GAPA had a ‘whale’ of a time at the Two Oceans Aquarium. We saw two days full of excited faces learning all about the marine life in and around the Cape Town area.
First, the younger children had their turn at the aquarium to explore and discover new things. They started their day with a puppet show about the importance of disposing of your waste properly and then they were let loose into the aquarium. African Impact volunteers and staff attended and were paired with a granny from GAPA who were then responsible for a group of 9-15 children. Each group was named after an aquatic animal such as starfish, whales, sharks, and Nemos, to name a few. The children were able to observe a wide arrange of marine life to include, sharks, penguins, clownfish, eels, and frogs. They were also able to touch starfish, kelp, and sea urchins. For many, this was their first time exploring the wonders of the sea and they loved every minute of it!
Half of the older children spent the first part of their day with a planned lesson in a classroom first, while the other half explored the first floor of the aquarium and filled out worksheets. The worksheet included a scavenger hunt type lesson challenging the children to look for different sea animals and ask plenty of questions about the things they saw in each exhibit.
The classroom lesson allowed the children to get up close with starfish, different types of sea urchins, and different sea plants while learning about their anatomy. After 45 minutes, the groups switch giving all of the children a chance to go into the classroom and fill out their worksheets. The older kids were so excited about everything they were learning that day.
All of this marine life is around the children and grannies everyday but they may not have been able to see it if it wasn’t for this trip to the aquarium. When we asked all of the children what their favorite part of the trip was we received a wide arrange of answers. Most loved seeing the penguins and sharks up close and personal, while others enjoyed petting the starfish and looking inside the Nemo tank. Liyema and Nosipho, two girls that regularly attend GAPA’s afterschool programme, said, “Seeing the sharks and penguins in person was really exciting.”
For several of the grannies, this was the first and only time they have encountered the marine animals in the aquarium. Nomfusimemani, a granny at GAPA, said that this was her first time seeing several of the fish in the aquarium but she really enjoyed the penguins.
In all, this trip was fun and educational for all who attended. According to assessments conducted before and after the trip, the children showed a significant improvement in their knowledge of the marine life in Cape Town. We are very excited to continue this programme throughout the year and take this wonderful group of children on another exciting trip in November!